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Article by Romy Fields Zack's English Labradors for the magazine Labrador Newsletter

This article was written by Romy Fields Zack's English Labradors for the magazine Labrador Newsletter

In 1977 I aquired my first Labrador, Zack, from a small breeder/gamekeer on an estate in Aberfoyle, Scotland. As there was only three in the litter, Zack was the only pup available. The bitch and the other dog were being kept. We picked him up at three months old, to me he was something absolutely wonderful. We had had dogs all my family life but finally this one was just mine.

I was taught many years ago that you don't learn much about a breed by looking at poor examples and this is a philosophy that I have kept too. So much so that even when Zack grew into a very smart dog I always told myself " he's yours so obviously you think he's georgeous", he was my first labrador and so I left it at that.

In l986 my Brazlian X husband decided to go back to live in his country and so, we began planning the move. Of course, we wanted to take Zack with us. We contacted the Brazilian Kennel Club to find out about documents required etc. and someone in the Club told us that Labradors were very scarce here and if we knew anything about the breed could we take a breeding pair with us. I could hardly believe labs were scarce in Brazil, but decided to look into the possibility of taking a pair with us.

Out came Zack's pedigree and the research began. He had a very interesting pedigree going back to 1949, and off I went to the library curious to see if it really meant anything. The Countess Lorna Howe's book 'The Popular Labrador Retriever" was first on the list. and from this I identified some of the dogs on my old boy's pedigree. Ch. Holton Baron was Zack's great grandsire a son of Sandylands Bob. Ch. Holton Baron had a significant influence on the breed after the war both as a sire and show dog, winning a total of 26CC's. H.Baron's kennel mate the black bitch Holton Dusk 's influence is to be found behind the Countess's Blaircourt affix. Sandringham Rita was Zack's grandmother coming from the Queen's notable Labrador Kennel going back to 'noble' and sound 'bloodlines. The more I read the more I was in awe of these wonderful dogs and of the work that had been done to preserve breed type coupled with workability. The way these founding kennels bred the Lab was something to take note of.

Logically I tried to get in touch with Zack's breeders only to be told that they no longer bred. Wondering where to go now I got in touch with Mrs Nolan, (Leijie) then secretary of the Labrador Club of Scotland. Mrs Nolan was very helpful and invited me to her kennel. I remember her showing me a book and asking "which of these types do you like"? I browsed and pointed to a page and said " I want this type" a picture of a Poolstead dog. Hum...you'll have to wait about three years for one of hers. I explained that I had about 6 months and wanted to take the dogs with me. Mrs. Nolan then invited me to a Championship show to be held in Ayr, and it was there that I met the sire of my first sire dog Special Edition of Mardas and thanks to Mrs Heppers consideration, my good friend Margaret Litherland (Oakhouse).

Mrs. Hepper's Mardas kennel has it's roots in the Ballyduff line. little did I know that this dog was to have his influence on my kennel just as Ballyduff has had it's influence on a great many of todays kennels. Although Special Edition was a chocolate dog and went back to Bronze Adam of Cookridge, Cookridge kennel being well known for producing the first english chocolate Ch. Cookridge Tango, for some reason I did'nt really take much notice of his colour as it was his type that marked him.

Ballyduff and Sandylands affix's we know are famous throughout the world and I believe continues to mark many lines right up untill today. Looking into the past, just after the war, the established kennels, who had managed to 'stay alive' began breeding again and through them many other kennels sprang up and more dogs began to change hands. e.g.In the Labrador Retriever's book, commemorateing 75 years of club, when talking about the foundation of the breed it tells of a bitch bought by the late Mrs. Bridget Docking 'Ch. Ballyduff Whatstandwell Rowena. When Rowena was bred to Ch. Sandylands British Justice the mating produced a very notable dog Sh.Ch. Ballyduff Tory, Tory however,did not leave his mark the breed. The Ballyduff kennel which was well established before the war managed to breed lightly during the war years. Their bitch Ballyduff Venus, the dam of four champions, was to have her influence, this influence reached America, when Mrs. Docking sent Ch. Ballyduff Candy to the Warick's (Lockerbie), they in turn bred her to Ballyduff Treeshome Terry Boy a line bred litter.

There was great co-operation between the Banchory Kennel, the Countress Lorna Howe and Mrs. Broadley's Sandylands dogs along with many others whose influence is still felt even today. Names such as Tibshelf, Holton, Liddly, Mansergh, Heatheredge, Cookridge and Keithray.

In the earlier years most of the older founding kennels preferred the blacks. It was not untill later around the 50's that a few breeders began to try and imprint their style on the yellows. The majority of kennels well known for yellows go back to the Poppleton dogs. Mrs. Hepworth's wonderful Poolstead dogs are no exception. Cornlands was another kennel that made it's mark on the yellows and was very successful in the show ring,in the 1950's.

Through Mrs. Hepper, contact was made with Mrs. Litherland (Oakhouse) and a male puppy was asked for. I explained that I was contemplating starting up a kennel and asked her if she could also choose a special bitch that was a cousin to the male pup. Having observed a large degree of linebreeding on Zack's pedigree and taking advise from the Countess's book I reasoned that to begin a kennel it was best done with cousins. I was promised the pick of the litter as far as the male was concerned and felt very honoured.

So, because of my research into Zack's old pedigree and with help and a bucket of luck, I bought my first sire dog 'Br. Gr. Ch. Oakhouse Celtic King'. King's dam Dupal Della went back to Keithray and Sandylands. Sandyland Mark, is noted on her pedigree as having only1 CC, quite sentimental. Interestingly she also went back to a kennel called Ravenshall who used to collect the rex fox colour, something that I'd forgot and recently have been reminded of.

On Zack's pedigree, King's pedigree, and indeed on most famous pedigrees a strong degree of linebreeding is found. I would say that the old english kennels tried to keep their type clean and bred to that for three or four generations before going 'out'. When they did decide to breed 'out' this was almost always to a dog that carried the same type (not necessarily a champion) and always to a sound dog. The top breeders would never have used a dog just because it was a winner. It had to suit their type and be known not to carry unwanted traits. So that linebreeding and compensation breeding went hand in hand and if we look at photos of the Sandylands dogs, Poolstead dogs, Ballyduff,and Heatheredge, we can see, although distinct strains, a strong similarity in construction and balance.

Up to present day, the top english kennels with their roots planted firmly way back continue to preserve these traditions. As an example I compared Ch Cambremer Montclair's pedigree to that of Oakhouse Out of Order....there are three dogs whose influence jump out on what at first glance looks to be two different pedigrees, not so different I think. On the Oakhouse dog we see the Glenarem's influence in Ch. Oakhouse Glenarem Classic who appears on three lines and on Ch. Cambremer Montclair we note his brother Ch. Glenarem Skyrocket taking up one quarter of her pedigree. If we compare Oakhouse one a Minute to Cambremer Montclair the similarities are even greater.

The lessons I learnt both from reading and from Margaret's sound advice have stood me in good stead here in Brazil. In 1986 there were'nt really any dogs to choose from so I had no choice but to linebreed and bring in dogs as and when I thought it necessary, almost always from the same lines, and in this way I have tried to balance and develop my line, without exagerations and without loosing touch. For me it has been easy and a delight, to learn who and most of the time what lies behind my dogs, along with the benefit of honest criticism from my english mentor. It has'nt been so easy for me to choose the very few outcrosses that I've used over the years. Only now do we have access to a few good dogs in Brazil and even fewer of these would click with my work. Therefore linebreeding was not simply a choice it was a necessity.

I believe it far better to breed consistantly good dogs than beeed one splendid one in who knows how often. If you have a good sound basis to work from, and you are able to fix type, then with a certain degree of artistic flair together with the knowledge of your own line and that of the sire dog's strain in the case of using an outcross, you can, with luck, add or substract details hopefully to meet your own ideal idea of the special lab.

Is type to type really an outcross? Does'nt that depend on the pedigrees involved and the influence of the more dominant dogs. And, the theory that four generations corresponds to linebreeding? Is this really fact? Don't previous generations influence the pedigree. In my puppies I see more than four generations. Sometimes only on the bitch line and sometimes both bitch and sire, yet when I recently used an outcross, Ch. Cambremer Freelander, imported and owned by Alexandre Channon of Preton Labradors in Brazil the first time in a very long time it was because I believed as the pedigrees showed that I was going way back to Ballyduff, Sandylands and Glenarem lines albeit more than four generations back.. I had a wonderful litter. Whose to say that this 'outcross' was'nt a linebreeding afterall?

My thanks must go to the pioneers of the breed, who kept type and did'nt try to change the breed too much as we see all too often happening today. Could we really improve on Sandylands Mark or Croftspa Hazelnut of Foxrush? to name but a few beautiful dogs from the recent past. They stamped the breed with their smooth lines balance and clear type. I for one will look at their pictures and try to learn just how they were bred.

This article was written by Romy Fields breeder/judge who although a Scot lives in Brazil.

Her kennel name is Zack's English Labradors.

She is responsible for writing the elaborated standard for the breed in portuguese.

Dogs Worldwide.com - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Romy Fields Zack's English Labradors

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